Environment in the State of the State

  • Governor Rick Snyder gives his State of the State address. (Photo courtesy of gophouse.com)

In his first State of the State address last night, Governor Rick Snyder made it clear that jobs are his first priority.

But he also made several announcements on conservation and park projects and the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.
He announced that his budget recommendation will include annual funding of $25 million for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.

“This program supports one of our strongest assets – our water resources and the treasures of the Great Lakes, and it’s an illustration of value for money. It’s positive for our image, and it’s positive return on our tax dollars.”

And he urged the legislature to quickly pass a bill that would implement the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund board. The board has recommended that $100 million be used to buy land for conservation and parks.

“These projects will positively impact every corner of our state. From Iron County in the Upper Peninsula to Traverse City, to Luna Pier in Monroe County. Also included is a significant expansion of the William T Milliken Park on the Detroit riverfront.”

In his address, Governor Snyder called the Great Lakes “economic engines.”


Ryan Werder is the political director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. He says he’s hopeful that the legislature will follow through on some of the governor’s requests.

“I was on the floor for his speech and on a number of these proposals, the vast majority of them, everybody was standing up. I think natural resources and our environment are a place where everybody in Michigan and everybody on that floor can work together.”

But there was one proposal Werder wasn’t so sure about.

Governor Snyder asked the legislature to strengthen the current program of voluntary environmental standards that’s in place for farmers.

“So that farmers who run environmentally sound operations are protected from unnecessary regulations and frivolous lawsuits. (applause)”

Ryan Werder says he’s not sure Snyder’s plan will be entirely positive.

“How it actually works in practice is a different story. It’s not enough to say to people we trust you to not pollute. We need to actually ensure that they are not.”

The Farm Bureau released a statement after the address. It said that the governor’s approval of voluntary standards would encourage more farmers to comply with the program.


This is the Environment Report.
Companies trying to generate renewable energy with wind are facing opposition up north.

There are no wind farms yet along the coast of Lake Michigan. But large energy companies are planning them near Ludington and Frankfort. Peter Payette reports:

To fit enough wind turbines in one area, developers are proposing to put some as close as a thousand feet to nearby homes.

Some neighbors say the peace and quiet of the countryside will be destroyed by large windmills swooshing around.
They want local governments to require more than a mile between homes and wind farms.

Developers say problems like noise are greatly exaggerated by people who want to ban large wind turbines altogether.

Allan O’Shea represented Duke Energy at a public forum recently.
He said rural areas and farmers who lease their land for turbines will gain a lot from wind energy.

“Our farmers bring us much of our open space and much of our beauty and they have a right to this new kind of architecture that is farming the wind.”

Some local governments in the region have put moratoriums on the construction of wind farms to study the issues.

For the Environment Report, I’m Peter Payette.

RW: Last week, Consumers Energy filed for a permit to build a wind farm south of Ludington. Consumers says it’s planning to build 56 turbines there.

That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Snyder vs. Bernero on the Environment

  • Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder are running for governor in Michigan.

Michigan’s next governor will have a lot of influence over what happens to our farms and lakes and state parks. Today we’re taking a look at the two major party candidates for governor, and how they compare on some of the big environmental issues.

Virg Bernero’s environment page

Rick Snyder’s environment page


Republican Rick Snyder and Democrat Virg Bernero actually agree on a few things. They both say the Asian carp is bad and the Chicago shipping locks should be closed to keep them out of Lake Michigan. They both want to limit urban sprawl, and they both want Michigan to become a manufacturing hub for wind and solar power.

In a surprise move, the non-partisan group Michigan League of Conservation Voters endorsed both candidates in their respective primaries.

“This was the first time the Michigan LCV has ever endorsed a gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side of the ticket.”

That’s Ryan Werder. He’s the groups political director.

“We endorsed Rick in the primary because he demonstrates real commitment to Michigan’s environment and he has a standing history of working on conservation issues.”

Werder admits it can be hard to evaluate someone who’s never held public office. He says Virg Bernero, on the other hand, voted in step with the LCV’s positions 87 percent of the time when he was in the legislature.

Bernero calls himself one of the greenest mayors in the state.

“I’m not going to put up with long term damage of the environment for short term gain. Whether it’s factory farms or mining or anything else. We’re going to look at the long term implications of every use of our environment.”

The League of Conservation Voters has not endorsed either candidate in the general election.

Other groups have clearly favored one candidate over the other. Virg Bernero’s gotten the endorsement of the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action.

Rick Snyder has been endorsed by the Michigan Farm Bureau’s political action committee.

Wayne Wood is the Farm Bureau’s president. He says he likes that Rick Snyder is in favor of the current program of voluntary environmental standards that’s in place for farmers.

“His support of that recognizes we can do more for the environment by creating incentives than we can by using the stick if you will.”

During a call-in program on Michigan Radio, Rick Snyder said the regulatory system in Lansing is broken.

“My goal is to switch that system from penalizing people and using it as a back door revenue source to saying how do you treat people as if they’re good honest people and how do you help them win compliance, and then the bad people, you really go after those people.”

But Snyder’s position on regulation worries some environmental groups.

Anne Woiwode is the state director of the Sierra Club. She says she’s concerned about pollution from the state’s several hundred concentrated animal feeding operations – sometimes called factory farms. She says they’re already poorly regulated.

“We’re extremely nervous that Mr. Snyder’s position right now appears to be one of rolling back protections of public health, food and water quality and air quality that would be the result of moving to a voluntary system for regulating agriculture particularly for these massive operations.”

Repeated attempts to schedule an interview with Rick Snyder were unsuccessful.

Another controversial issue is whether to build new coal fired power plants. The Detroit Free Press reported Rick Snyder wants to fast track permits for new coal plants.

Bernero says Michigan needs to be more energy efficient, but he won’t rule out new coal plants as long as they’re cleaner than the old plants.

“The real question is if we can’t get enough with reduction and with different renewable energies are we better off with newer coal technologies than the old plants?”

What either candidate would actually do as governor is still not entirely clear. The environment has not been a strong campaign issue on the stump. In their one and only general election debate, the environment did not come up at all.

Rebecca Williams, The Environment Report.